So while observers may see Ginobili display some of those attributes throughout this season, even he admits he’s scaling back things somewhat.
“Yeah, I am changing the way I play a lot,” Ginobili said Friday after practice. “[I] still have that essence. But of course, I don’t have the ability to go all the way as often as I used to or get into the lane or throw my body onto defenders like I used to. So I’ve got to mix it up, pick my battles.”
One of those includes regular discussions with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who has tried to manage Ginobili’s minutes as he comes to the end of a storied career, while telling the veteran he doesn’t want him playing much this year in back to backs.
Ginobili played 22 minutes in the team’s Oct. 30 win over the Brooklyn Nets, contributing 12 points. Ginobili then participated in 24 minutes in the team’s Nov. 1 victory over the Boston Celtics. Prior to the team’s 94-84 victory over the New York Knicks, Popovich talked about the ongoing battle to minimize Ginobili’s minutes.
“I can tell you an honest story. I don’t really want to play him much in back to backs this year, which is really nothing new. So we talked about it. I thought we had come to a conclusion,” Popovich said shortly before San Antonio faced the Knicks. “Manu said we hadn’t. So he played last night, or yesterday afternoon. So I said, ‘Today’s a back to back and you’re not going to play.’ [Ginobili replied] ‘Pop, I have to play.’ [Popovich countered] ‘No, remember we talked about [this]?’ [Ginobili replied] ‘No, I don’t remember exactly.’ All the coaches, we talked about this, they all agreed. [Ginobili said] ‘No, come on Pop.’ I said, ‘OK, you talk to [the assistant coaches].’ So we had a little breakfast this morning. I put six guys including that [assistant coach] Chip Engelland guy. I said [to Ginobili], ‘You go talk to them. I’m tired of talking to you.’ So he sits down with six coaches. And they’re convincing him and making him know that he shouldn’t play back to backs. The meeting’s over and he’s playing tonight. So we have a bunch of cowards for assistants and Manu runs the program. True story. But I am in charge of minutes so he’ll play like three minutes a half.”
Actually, Ginobili played 17 minutes in the win over the Knicks, scoring seven points, and he’s averaged 20.6 minutes over the first five games, which is somewhat down from his 22.7-minute average last season.
“Less minutes, but still the good thing is I’m having fun,” said Ginobili. “I’m enjoying the season; very happy and optimistic about our chances. It is an important part of my mindset right now: enjoying the trip, not only getting there. So I am more relaxed and less tense before a game or during, getting less upset. I’m enjoying the ride.”